Agent Savant

The musings of literary agent Laurie McLean

How to Survive Narroweve (Halloween)

Written By: laurie - Oct• 29•15


The following excerpt came from a weathered old tome I found on the shelf of a tiny bookshop in Edinburgh. Both the bookshop and the street where it resided have long since vanished, and all attempts to find either have proven fruitless. Thankfully, I was so puzzled by the following passage that I made note of it. You may question, as I had, if the following is fiction or a prank, but the odd…qualities of the original manuscript convinced me of its truths. The book itself held declarations of another realm; a place called the Grimwytch. A land where a monstrous people seek to protect themselves from humans on Halloween night. Or Narroweve as they call it.

On protection from humans on Narroweve 

It is a singularly strange fact that human beings, or Drearspawn as most of us more accurately call them, are absolutely terrified of Narroweve. On this night, which they call Halloween, they wear costumes that make a mockery of us denizens of the Grimwytch. Ironically, the purpose of this is a wretched attempt to fend off the very same spirits we too seek to be free of on this night.

But alas, human beings tend to wander like lost sheep on Narroweve and from time to time they slip through the veil into the Grimwytch. And from there cause all manner of havoc, disturb the peace with their perpetual screams and gibbers, and even go as far as to attack our citizens. So here, for your consideration, are five ways to repel humans.

Distilled Essence of Fear

Pure Essence of Fear is both difficult and expensive to acquire. Fortunately there are merchants, particularly in the market on the Vashhaal wharf, who can procure such things. So if your funds are plentiful, Essence of Fear will make a most effective remedy to repel humans. Simply spray it into their ears, allow it to spread and creep, and their fevered minds will take care of the rest.


While Lumpathumps are difficult to find on account of being invisible, you should be able to lure them using fried rat tails or copper pennies. Lumpathumps make perfect deterrents and are especially effective in warding off young humans. This is due to their propensity for hiding beneath beds, as well as the fearsome noises they make when threatened by a din of snoring.


Oddly, spiders are a very common fear for Drearspawn. Why these friendly and articulate pets bother human beings is certainly beyond this writer’s comprehension. And whilst I’d never condone frightening a spider with a human, needs must as the drivel drives.

Cheesedung fly

As there are spiders, so there are flies. And the almost indescribable stench of a Cheesedung fly, especially one gathered at dusk, is enough to deter even the angriest of Hoardspikes let alone a Drearspawn. Needless to say coating oneself in a scent so vile should be a last measure as the wearer can expect to carry this most noxious scent for the rest of their life. Or lives.


While it should be noted this author has little regard for Drearspawn, I do not mean them harm. I only wish they’d leave us in peace and that our citizens would stop opening the portals between our worlds. But if a human is armed and intent on causing mischief, then let the Hackthins at them. And whatever’s left will almost certainly make a most pleasant purse or scarf. 

So now you have five means to repel humans. Although removal and disposal of them is another problem entirely. See chapter five for more on this troublesome topic.


After noting this intriguing passage, I discovered a so-called novel by a writer called Eldritch Black titled The Book of Kindly Deaths. This rather strange author has portrayed the Grimwytch as fiction in his book of very curious stories, but it’s quite clear to me that the monsters he chose to write about are terrifyingly real.

You can win a copy of The Book of Kindly Deaths on Goodreads from now until November 9th 2015, and read a lost tale from the book here.

Be careful out there. You never know what’s behind you.


World Teachers’ Day

Written By: laurie - Oct• 05•15

As the child of not one but two teachers, I had to celebrate with this infographic. If you can read books, thank a teacher!

World Teacher Day

World Teacher Day

Top 10 Ways to De-Stress in a Multi-Book Deal

Written By: laurie - Sep• 10•15

My fantasy author/client, J.M. Frey (@scifrey), has landed her second three-book publishing deal in less than a year. Ambitious. Terrifying. She must have a plan or face total annihilation!!! And she’s nice enough to share her top 10 tips for surviving the next two years with six books to write, edit, and promote.

SkylarksSongCast by JM Frey


by J.M. Frey

YAY! After ten years of writing, slogging, submitting, revising, shopping, and marketing, I have two fantastic series coming out in the next three years. What I am talking about, of course, are my two very awesome three-book deals with REUTS Publications – The Accidental Turn Series and The Skylark’s Saga.

But. Uh-oh. I have six books to write.

So, in order to combat the worrying, the fear, and the amount of writing to be done (I estimate I will have written about 446,000 words in novels/novellas alone between June 2015 and September 2016 if I meet my own deadlines, not counting the blog posts and screenplays), this is how I handle it:

  • Write
    • Carve out time every day. Mine is between 1pm and 4pm, and I try to write an average of 4k in that time. And starting with my next book, I’m hoping to do it on my recumbent exercise-bike desk so I can do my words and my physio at the same time!
  • Don’t Write
    • Don’t. Go do anything else. Hang out with friends at the pub or play board games. Watch TV or a go to the cinema, or the theatre. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play with a kitten. Go to the spa. Refill your creative well, and think through your plot-problems away from the pressure of the blank page and the blinking curser. As tempting as it might be to tell yourself that you are going to just sit there and write and write and write until it’s all done, you’ll burn yourself out. Headaches, eyestrain, and aching shoulders and wrists help no one.
  • Talk it out with other writers/your betas
    • The hardest part of this writing-a-series thing for me has been “And then what happens next, and how does that relate back to what’s already been written, and how will that support what I want to do after?” Finding the perfect balance of plot continuation, over-arching Big Bads, but enough minute interest in the details of the individual scenes and moments in the books has been a struggle. Luckily, the beta readers who all read book #1 have made themselves available to me to do books #2 and #3 as well, so I have people intimately familiar with the book who can help me when I’m stuck.
    • Other writers’ perspectives might help, too. I often tell large chunks of my plots to other writers, bouncing ideas off of them, or getting feedback. Often, when I hear, “Oh, that reminds me of so-and-so’s book” or “Oh, just like in That Important Book” from someone else, I pay attention to that. And generally I use it as a springboard into “Okay, if that’s the way that bit is usually told, what twist can I put on it? How can I make it fresh, different, or told from another perspective?”
  • Talk about literally anything else with people who are not writers
    • Again, take the time to breathe, to de-stress, to touch base with the rest of your life and friends.
  • Carry it with you
    • I have my manuscripts with me all the time when I’m in the editing stage. That way if I’m waiting for an appointment, or in transit, or waiting for a friend, I can do small bursts of red-pen editing.
    • I also have notebooks with me so I can write; alternately, I open a new email addressed to myself and tap out a scene or two.
    • It seems kind of silly, but in this way, you’ll see the grains in the hourglass of the tasks you have to perform trickling down. Even if it’s one at a time, at least they’re moving!
  • But don’t carry it to bed
    • Get enough rest, and make your sleep space your serene space. No work allowed between the sheets!
  • Use your support system
    • Your agent and editors are there for a reason. Bounce ideas off them, ask what they wish they could read in the next books, and don’t be afraid to outright ask, “Well, what would you write if you could write it?” I’ve found that asking always leads me down paths I hadn’t originally thought I’d go, and usually for the better.
    • Let them know what your planned writing schedule is, when they can expect drafts, what you’re working on now, etc. and generally keep them in the loop. That way you don’t feel like you’re writing into the void and they don’t feel kept in the dark. And be realistic about your deadlines. (Note to self: Editing always takes twice as long as I think it will.)
    • Ask for their preferred dates and schedules, too. Don’t be afraid of being honest about whether you think you can meet their deadlines.
  • Be organized
    • Have a file or a selection of note cards with each character’s physical attributes, their common phrases, and their preferences. It makes you look silly if a character hates coffee in book one and loves it in book two.
    • I keep separate notebooks for the two separate series so I can keep all the drabbles, good one liners, and plot ideas separate.
    • I also have a wall of note cards that have reminder notes, plot notes, due dates, etc. in big sharpie so it’s easy to read from my desk.
    • I also keep a folder of files for each separate book on my desktop. And another folder marked “Templates”. Each time I begin to work on a new project, I copy the templates into the novel’s folder and fill them out – pitch, one page-synopsis, three-page synopsis, potential series synopsis, press release, about the author, list of desired places to solicit reviews, appropriate reviewers, appropriate awards submissions, etc. That way I have lots of useful marketing documents when it comes time to do the marketing.
  • Offload what you can – the less you have on your plate, the less heavy it feels
    • Hire a publicity manager, if you can afford it.
    • Buy a book-blog tour from a company you like instead of trying to organize one yourself, if you can afford it.
    • Ask friends to take care of organizing the launch party.
    • Find an intern to help write/send out press releases or update your social media, if they’re willing.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – even if that’s housework help, or editing help, or organizing help. Literally the worst thing someone can say is “No, sorry.”
  • Compartmentalize
    • I choose specific days to work on specific projects, so I’m not trying to do everything at once. And from there I also break that down to “write the thing” and “market the thing” so I know what sort of hat I should be wearing as soon as I sit down.
    • Lists
    • All the lists.
    • All of them.
    • With small, cumulative goals that you can achieve easily.
    • Taped to the wall.
    • Checking things off feels so nice.

Anyway, so that’s how I’m handling it. Every time that little voice from the shadowed corner speaks up, I tell it to hush. I remember that I have nothing to fear, because my publisher, my agent, my editor – they wouldn’t have signed if they didn’t think I could do it. And then I get back at it. I do the thing. I check something off the list nearly every day, even if that’s just “Write 1k words” and that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, that I’m getting there, that I’m one step closer on this 446,000 step journey. So…yeah. I got this.

Skylarks Song Deal

Author JM Frey

TEEN FUSE: Gideon’s War (Guest Blog Post)

Written By: laurie - Jul• 07•15

I have known award-winning children’s author, Douglas Rees, for a long, long time. When Fuse Literary acquired the assets of Ambush Books, a publishing company that Doug and I founded three years ago, we were thrilled that four of his young adult historical fiction titles would once again shine in the spotlight. Doug is a teen librarian in San Jose, California. And when he was informed recently that kids don’t want to read historical fiction, he got angry. “If we don’t understand history we are doomed to repeat it,” he said. Then he wrote this:   -Laurie


By Douglas Rees

Why write a book about the Spanish-American War, especially one aimed at teens? Because of how totally current it is. Today, the Middle East is full of young Americans slogging through mountain passes that deterred Alexander the Great, or risking their lives in semi-secret service on the plains of Iraq. Beyond these, there are over 400 overseas military posts in almost every corner of what we used to call “The Free World”. The majority of our young people, even if they are not in military service themselves, know someone who has been. Most often this is someone who is a veteran of the fighting in the Great War On Terrorism. (And Not At All For Oil.)

It goes straight back to 1898, to Manila Bay, San Juan Heights, and the coast of Santiago. In July of 1898, the United States was not an imperial nation. In December, it was. In between, in a hundred days of active conflict, at a cost of 365 battle deaths, the United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and title to the Philippines. It created a protectorate over Cuba, arrogating to itself the right to overthrow its government. To secure its Pacific dominions, it connived the takeover of Hawaii from some wealthy and seditious sugar planters who had overthrown the legitimate government. We were Imperial, with an imperial military. In 1898, the U.S. Army, such as it was, had no overseas garrisons. By 1901, it was fighting its way into the Forbidden City of Beijing.

It was a revolutionary change, and we today all live in the world it created. We rely on today’s young Americans to maintain it, and they will be stuck with the bill. It may be that some of them are wondering why. Gideon’s War is a book for them.


Gideon’s War, a previously unpublished historical novel about Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and the Spanish-American War, is out now from Teen Fuse. It joins three of Douglas Rees’ YA backlist titles: Smoking Mirror (a tale of Paul Gauguin in the South Seas), Lightning Time (a pre-Civil War story about the infamous John Brown), and The Janus Gate (a ghost story about a famous John Singer Sargent painting.) All are told from a teen’s point of view.

Under His Spell

Written By: laurie - Apr• 07•15

Happy Book Birthday to Linda Wisdom for Under His Spell from Joyride Books. It’s a contemporary romance that takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, where two local kids “conjure” up a husband for their divorced mom. While the hero is all flesh and blood, the romance is pure magic. Touches of gothic haunts abound, as well as Wisdom’s classic snarky humor.

Half-Million Dollar Deal for Michael J. Sullivan

Written By: laurie - Feb• 25•15

I am so proud to tell you all that we just inked a $540,000 deal for epic fantasy and science fiction author Michael J. Sullivan of Riyria fame. Hadrian and Royce would be so proud of their Creator. Read the anatomy of the deal here:

Michael J. Sullivan

Happy Book Birthday, Riding the Odds!

Written By: laurie - Feb• 02•15

Riding the Odds by Lynda K. Scott

I love science fiction. I love romance. I love adventure. And, apparently, I also love sentient tattoos! This book has it all. And it’s a rollicking ride to boot. Give it a try. It’s only $1.99, but that price won’t last.

Vote for The Forever Song!

Written By: laurie - Jan• 13•15

Forever Song

Congrats to Toby Neal!

Written By: laurie - Oct• 23•14

Not only has self-published mystery author Toby Neal sold a million copies of her Lei Crime series police procedurals, she’s blazing a trail in audiobooks too. Today she sold her 8th and 9th books to Audible in a nice deal. Here’s the Publishers Marketplace deal announcement:

Toby Neal’s FIRE BEACH: Hawaii is cane fires, lush jungles, and feuds that won’t die until everyone’s dead. In this eighth of the Lei Crime Series, a detective and her policeman husband find out just how far love and hate will go, and RIP TIDES, to Lee Jarit at Audible, in a nice deal, for publication in 2015, by Laurie McLean at Fuse Literary (World). Dramatic: Brandy Rivers at ICM

Find out more about Toby and her thrilling series at

Fire Beach by Toby Neal

Foreword Literary Becomes Fuse Literary!

Written By: laurie - Oct• 10•14

October 10, 2014—San Francisco Bay Area—Foreword Literary, the hybrid literary agency launched in March of 2013, is rebranding as Fuse Literary following an out of court settlement with Fore Word Magazine, Inc. Fuse Literary will continue to operate as normal, focusing on customized blending of traditional and emerging aspects of book publishing for their author-clients. All pending author submissions will remain under consideration.

Fuse Literary represents authors of all stripes, including New York Times Bestsellers like Julie Kagawa and Dr. Stephen Gullo, hybrid successes like Michael J. Sullivan and Nina Amir, and debut stars like Indie Next Pick Amy Zhang. Their client list totals over 76 authors with more than 160 titles in print.

“The owners of Fore Word Magazine, Inc. felt that people in publishing would be confused by the similar sounding names of our literary agency and their quarterly review magazine. We vehemently disagreed, but a lengthy court battle was untenable in terms of time and money wasted, so we decided to change our name,” says founding partner Laurie McLean. “But you know, sometimes when bad things happen to you, something better emerges. We feel that way about the name Fuse Literary. It embodies our new tagline, ‘Igniting Author Careers’ as well as the other meaning of fuse: bonding two or more things into a stronger whole. We feel stronger and are excited about continuing to explore the fusion possibilities of hybrid authors.”

Fuse Literary will continue to operate as a virtual agency with offices in New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and Vancouver. Highly flexible and collaborative, the professionals at Fuse Literary thrive on the high-tech approach, embracing cloud-based technologies and new forms of communication and storytelling.

“We are at our core an agency that sells books to be printed by major publishers, but our heart lies in innovation, and that’s where the new name really represents us,” says founding partner Gordon Warnock. “We embrace that spark of creativity, that explosiveness of quick action, and the fusing together of what has worked for the publishing industry for centuries and wonderful new opportunities the industry has yet to see.”

Along with the change, the agency’s Fast Foreword digital-first publishing operation will be rebranded as Short Fuse Publishing. The program will continue to offer groundbreaking works in alternative formats and multimedia across all genres. Short Fuse is celebrating the launch with biweekly releases of Short Fuse Guides, free e-books on writing and publishing written by Fuse Literary agents.

About Fuse Literary

Fuse Literary, Inc. is a new type of hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional book publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, social media, transmedia, and the cloud. The company has agents in New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and Vancouver. Founding partners Laurie McLean and Gordon Warnock are joined by agents Connor Goldsmith, Jen Karsbaek, Emily Keyes, Michelle Richter, and Sara Sciuto, in-house publicist Estelle Hallick, and a small army of rock star interns and assistants. For more, visit or follow us on your favorite social media @FuseLiterary.


“Gordon’s support and attentiveness are positively unwavering; it has been his compassionate encouragement and unfailing literary expertise that have carried me through the arduous process of revising and pitching my manuscript. I can’t imagine where I would be without his guidance, and would never think of making a decision regarding my career without consulting him first. Gordon has many times over proven what an excellent agent, writer, reader, and editor he is. Above all else, he has become one of my dearest friends, and a welcome addition to my community of literary folk.”

Tanya Chernov
A Real Emotional Girl

“I honestly wouldn’t have gotten where I am without super agent Laurie McLean.”

NYT Bestseller Julie Kagawa

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